Narcissism and Hollywood often seem synonymous. Not only do actors, as they’re stereotyped, get caught in paralytic reflection-gazing, but so too does the industry from which they’re born. You can feel the giddiness of a film or TV show when it engages in its own act of narcissism: self-parody. It often becomes scathing, pointed — and electric. 2014 has been particularly full of exquisite self-parody in the film and TV mediums.
Each of the works below uses an actor character as the center of its parody. This makes perfect sense because, as professional vessels, actors reflect the entertainment industry’s every absurd desire — and are among the most affected by its satire-worthy qualities, to the extent that they embody them. The industry is age-obsessed, thus the actor must become age-obsessed. But age, as we know, is uncontrollable. And as actors find their bodies and faces doing that thing that bodies and faces do as we grow older, they find the industry simultaneously neglecting them and searching for the next young person to indoctrinate, to uplift, and then to set on a path of fear that escalates in unison with their escalating years. The industry is, of course, especially age-intolerant with women — and this is reflected in the number of female characters at the center of Hollywood self-satire this year.
Here are this year’s most fascinating characters who happen to be aging under the reign of a harsh youth ideal:
Valerie Cherish — The Comeback
Valerie Cherish — Lisa Kudrow, and Michael Patrick King’s gratingly brilliant creation — is this year’s quintessential example of the archetype: when she appeared in the series’ first season ten years ago, she was in her early 40s, and Hollywood was already beginning to abandon her because of it, asking her to take desperate measures, like signing on to star in a reality TV show in order to secure a role in a sitcom, in order to stay relevant. Now, nine years later, she’s nine years more forgotten, burdened by a dust-collecting supply of “Cherish Your Hair” dye and by the notion that the only way to break back into Hollywood is by playing her old — in both senses of the word — self. To be anything whatsoever in the present, she’s forced to make a joke of her past.